Panama City Beach, FL---The weight room at Arnold is a very busy place as the Marlins get set for yet another trip to the State Tournament.
The program's won 2 state titles already, three times state runners up.
This time around, the team heads south with a different coach leading the charge.
That coach is Robert Britton who inherited the program built into a powerhouse by Bill Thomas after Thomas took the head coaching job at Sneads in late January.
"I mean you could never replace coach Thomas,' says Arnold senior Darius Smedley who lifts in the 139 pound class "he's the best, at Arnold, he won two state championships. But coach Britton has taught us well too. He's a mixture of coach Thomas. Coach Thomas was more powerful, coach Britton is more explosive. And you can obviously see most of us are getting more explosive with our weight."
Senior Hayden DeForge, who lifts in the 154 class, echoes those comments. "The transition was probably the best case scenario going from Coach Thomas to coach Britton. Coach Thomas definitely one of the best coaches in the state, to coach Britton, in his first year. Coach Britton's handled it like a champ! He knew what we had been doing, he knows our history and how hard we've been working. All he's done is add to what we already had."
No doubt filling coach Thomas' shoes in this weight room was tough, but Thomas himself helped make that a little easier.
"I talked with coach Thomas before he left' says coach Britton "and we definitely wanted to keep it on the right track and keep it going. They were always strong but I kind of added a little power to them and they've just blown up and had a great and remarkable season."
And the result of that season, ten lifters qualifying for state. Many making a second, or even third trip down, and that experience should be a plus!
"It's good to see the stadium," says senior Colby Baker "see what you're gonna be in so it's not just like a shock in getting in there, so many eyes and so many different camera flashes going on."
And all those spectators, and the state environment sometimes brings out the best, it did last year for Baker.
"I actually jumped up 15 pounds last year to get a clean and jerk max trying to place. It's a lot more exhilarating."
Britton believes the timing for State later this week is perfect for his guys. "The good thing about them is I don't feel like they've really peaked yet. Some have peaked faster than others, and some haven't peaked quite yet. But a lot of the guys are really hungry for that peak. So I show them all the numbers, they don't want to get out of the weight room they just stay here work hard and continue to get better every day."
The team heads to Kissimmee Thursday, the 1A State meet begins Saturday.